Interview: Sea Of Tranquility
17th October 2012
Rhys Marsh is an English singer/songwriter and producer who is now located in Trondheim, Norway. In September of 2012, his “multi-national orchestra”, The Autumn Ghost released their third album, The Blue Hour, which I found to be a unique and beautiful work of art, featuring a mix of woodwinds, brass, as well as some of the more typical Prog Rock instruments such as guitars, keyboards, and drums. Sea of Tranquility writer Geoff Glenister was able to catch up with Mr. Marsh recently to talk about the creative process behind the new album, the history of The Autumn Ghost, and some of Rhys’ future plans.
SoT: I understand that the “Rhys Marsh And The Autumn Ghost” band contains members from various other projects – can you give our readers a little history of how this group came together?
Rhys: Quite simply, the Autumn Ghost is my dream band. When I was recording my debut album, my first band had just broken up, after nine years together, so I was able to start from scratch. Whilst I was still living in London, I was in contact with some guys from the Scandinavian scene, so I asked if they’d contribute and they were all up for it. It was a fantastic experience — I wanted some flute, so I asked Ketil from Jaga Jazzist. I wanted some more Mellotron (Mattias Olsson had already played it on a few songs, but one can never have enough Mellotron!), so I asked Nicklas from Anekdoten. They were all into the songs and it all came together better than I could’ve imagined!
SoT: For those out there who are familiar with your other albums, how would you say the approach was different for this album? Was there a conscious decision to take a different approach on this album than the approach used on “Dulcima”, or “The Fragile State Of Inbetween”?
Rhys: There was indeed a decision, and very strong desire, to make this album in a different way. The first two albums had lots of input from the contributing musicians. I mostly left it open for them to interpret the songs and add what they felt was right, which I would then edit into the mix. For ‘The Blue Hour’, I wanted to write every note before it was recorded, so it had more of an orchestral or chamber music feel. Of course, using brass and woodwind quartets meant that this was necessary anyway! This way of working was perfect for this album — it gives it much more of a personal feel, which was especially appropriate for the nature of the album.
SoT: The term “progressive”, as it applies to music or musical genres, seems to carry different definitions for different people. It seems to me that at the same time, multiple definitions of this term may apply to your music. Can you tell us your thoughts on your particular philosophy of making music, on “progressive” music, and how you fit in to the equation?
Rhys: I tend to not think about it, which I’m happy about, otherwise I’d probably get stuck trying to figure out how to technically define what I’m doing. I prefer working faster than i can think — it feels more honest that way. it’s progressive in that it’s going somewhere, but which particular box it fits into I’m much happier that the listener thinks about that themselves, whilst I’m writing and recording the next album!
SoT: There are a variety of different instruments that appear on “The Blue Hour” – can you tell us how the composition process went for this album? Did you compose all the various parts, or did various members contribute pieces to a greater whole?
Rhys: Yes, I wrote all the parts in advance of the recording. The arrangements came as I was writing the songs, so they’re very much tied together. They’re all extended melodies — whereas on the previous two albums I had lots of voices in counterpoint, this time it’s the woodwind and brass extending the harmonies and melodic ideas.
SoT: What would you say are some of the greatest musical influences behind this project, and who would you say are your musical “heroes”?
Rhys: Nick Drake is my biggest influence — he pretty much redefined the way I think about music. Jimi Hendrix was a major influence early on. He was definitely heading in an orchestral-prog direction! Then there’s King Crimson, David Sylvian, The Tea Party, Scott Walker, Jeff Buckley and Van Der Graaf Generator. ‘The Blue Hour’ didn’t really have any particular influence — I just wanted to bring chamber music instruments into more of a cinematic setting, and throw some psychedelic and progressive elements in.
SoT: Can you tell us about some of the lyrical ideas behind “The Blue Hour” and the inspiration behind them?
Rhys: My lyrics are always open-ended. They’re like jigsaw puzzles. If you have all the pieces, you can start assembling various fragments of my life. Although, people will always put them together in a different order, therefore creating their own pictures and relating certain pieces to their own lives.
SoT: What is your favourite album from the year 2012 so far?
Rhys: It has to be The Tea Party’s new live album. They’ve been my favorite band since their first album came out, back in 1994. When I first heard them it all made sense — that was how music was meant to sound! After a six-year split, they’re back together and, quite amazingly, sounding as good as ever. I also love Mark Lanegan’s newest album, ‘Blues Funeral’.
SoT: Thank you so much for sharing with us! Is there anything else you’d like to mention to our readers?
Rhys: I’ve just launched my own record label, Autumnsongs Records, which will be for my solo and side-projects, as well as artists who I’m producing. the first release, on the 12th of November, will be the debut album of Silje Leirvik — an extremely talented singer-songwriter from the north of Norway, who I’ve been working with for the past year. We both feel we’ve made an album of honest and genuine beauty. Keep an eye on www.Autumnsongs.no for updates!